A little slow this week but I have 35 of the IMG files done. Even though several are repeats of the same image but a different name (one door is the same for 7 images), I am striving to make them different. Although they ARE listed in the INF file that are used as the key for the map files (MIFs), I think those files are based on templates that contain extraneous data and that many of these doors aren’t actually used in the game. I guess I’ll find out when I am doing my test play through after going Beta. – Martin
Get it together man
Now that I have finished the “walls and halls”, it’s time to renovate the doors and remaining floors. I have finished almost all the ground textures though (well a few could used tweaked too). In the past, I just worked directly in the directory where I extracted the files and reinserted them into the BSA from there. However since there are so many IMG files (949 to be exact) and that isn’t the cleanest way to work from a project management perspective, I pulled all the door files out to a separate folder/workspace and created a completed folder to use for importing files back to the BSA.
Doors, Doors, Everywhere there are Doors
There are 112 door files not including non-doors that would serve as potential transition points (e.g. ladder up/down, stairs, etc..there are about 12 of those). These IMG files come in two variety, framed and whole texture.
I’ve been framed
The framed doors are “framed” with the texture of the building to which they belong (e.g. the Mage Guild door has a frame art that matches the building). To do these, I’ll just copy and paste a wall from the matching set file and layer it under the door so it’ll be a perfect fit with the rest of the building. All exteriors and some interior doors are framed doors, pretty much any door that transitions between outside and inside.
That’s no small wall…it’s a door!
The other type of door is the whole texture door. I have done a few of these previously as you can see in the screenshot. These doors belong to all the interior rooms and are the ones that swing open so you can enter a room. Although they are relatively simple (as they repeat the same textures over and over for different files), I’m hoping to add a little more variety to them.
First things first though, I will test to see if each IMG file is used in game (i’ll probably do them in batches). I have already found several that aren’t. I will likely still redo them just in case. Worst case scenario, if I ever can get anyone to figure out how to decipher the MTF files, I will use them to make new dungeons and buildings.
Awhile back I had posted that I had learned that I could update the font files. I never liked the font in Arena as it was too flowery for readability at such a low resolution. Each letter in the fonts was ranged from 3×3 to 8×8 pixels in size. They were all really just super small pictures.
If I build it, I’ll build it thrice
I wasn’t satisfied with my previous attempts and decided to quickly rebuild them again. This time, I tested each one out in game to see how well the effect worked. Surprisingly, this took more time than I imagined and I ended up completely revamping each font file 3-4 times till I was happy with them. In game testing allowed me to see where I missed or added a space, what characters didn’t look right, and generally if the font looked ok when playing. As you can see in the picture, the editor lets you click each pixel, one by one. While each character font file can have the spacing and padding adjusted using the slider (thus bigger or small amount of horizontal pixels), the height of the characters was fixed for each font file. Although it would be relatively easy to just rename one of the other font files that have a bigger height setting, I think that might play havok on how the game displays text and didn’t really see the need for it.
Through some in for spares?
To determine which font affected which portion of the game, I filled in a different set of characters in each font file as a solid box. Then I just looked to see which font was being used in each portion of the game containing text. Like with the art (and probably sound files), I found that not all fonts were used. Of the 10 font files included with the game, I have only been able to find 4 of them in game. Or at best, the others are used in some obscure corner of the game.
NOTE: The screenshots were taken with a vanilla version of Arena since this mod will be released as a separate mod from ADP.
UPDATE: I released TES Arena ReFonted on the nexus. You can get it here.
I have just finished the last SET file for TES1:ARENA. The SET files include the artwork for most walls and some floors in the game. With the completion of the the last one, ADP (Arena Depixelization Project) has reached Alpha status.
Doors and more
Of course that doesn’t mean I’m done, I still have to finish the remaining walls and floors that are IMG files (the other image type that Arena uses for in-game static graphics. The doors are much simpler (and less abstract) than the SET files. Additionally, IMG files are a single image as opposed to the 3 to 5 images stitched together that composed a SET file.
Furthermore, many of the exterior doors borrow from their “matching” SET file for wall surrounding the door. This should be a simple matter of loading the SET file, coping a picture and pasting as a background layer for the door. I have completed many IMG files, but there are still many more.
Upload to a site near you
Now that I’m in Alpha, I plan to upload the initial mod, hopefully, within the week. Naturally, I will clearly state the unfinished condition. I just believe this would be a good chance to get some critical feedback. I already know that I am no longer happy with some of the textures but am resolved to get to Beta before I start tweaking my work too much.
We have a tech upgrade?
A while back I started subscribing to Adobe’s Photoshop plan but haven’t used it yet. For the most part, the projects I was working on had time constraints that discouraged me from experimenting in a new program. Photoshop user interface and ways of functioning are different than GIMP (although both can produce similar results). Now that I don’t have any pet projects outside of my own interests, I figure this is a good time to start. This is especially true with converted IMG files which are very simple (kind of like “hello world” for programming.)
After much wait and anticipation (more like I completely forgot to release it), TES Arena IntroFix is complete and can be downloaded here:
In this mod, I fixed three slides from the intro when you select new game.
I had completed these some time ago but forgot to release them. Unfortunately, my file managment has been less than stellar and it took awhile to find them again. When I did, I noticed that there were still a couple of errors that needed fixing. So I fixed them and now no one need ever suffer under Uriel Septim IV’s oppressive need to steal the limelight from his great grandson.
Uriel is an odd family name
Once I had the textures in PNG format (a common image format), fixing the slides was a matter of several well placed cut and pasting.
However, getting them to a PNG format was more of a challenge. I had to use Arena Toolbox by Dysperia. That tool is a fantastic counterpart to ArenaModdingSuite. One of it’s unique functions is that it can convert the compressed images into PNG. Before this tool, no one knew how to uncompress those images (there are quite a few).
One hidden feature of the program is that it allows you to import the palette file (where it determines color) into the image itself versus being external to the file in the root directory. To make it work though, you have to trick the program into thinking it’s a new image. Simply adding a letter in the filename sufficed. The Toolbox can also convert back to the native IMG file.
Last thing left was to test it. I dropped my 3 new IMG Intro slides into the root folder of Arena, booted it up, and IT WORKED. Awesome. Sometimes it’s the little wins that keep you going 😉
I know, I know. I have been away for some time. 2015 was a very difficult year in the non-digital realm and some things had to slide to offset the stress.
Came back again
However, despite my my absence on this blog, I was actually quite busy on the graphic arts side of the house. I either oversaw or personally completed several projects for coworkers and friends. One of which, I am extremely proud of (more on that hopefully in a future post…i.e. one that isn’t written late at night when I should be sleeping).
It’s all fun and games
While I didn’t really work on the Arena Depixelization Project too much (it had to slide too), I was involved with design aspects for a couple of mods focusing mostly on 3D layout & set design and got some interesting practice on cooperative project management as a graphic artist/designer. I even every so slightly fiddled with 3D modeling.
Accelerate to 88 mphs
I have Photoshop now, guess I should actually work on learning how to use it.The problem is that I’m so used to GIMP, Photoshop seems downright alien to me. I imagine my warm up period will probably not be the speediest.
I want to experiment a little with my art projects. I am thinking of “remastering” some of my very very early and juvenile (i.e. decades old) artwork. I don’t know how it will turn out but at minimum, it seems like a interesting experiment.
Another similar idea I read about was to take kids artwork and reimagine it. I have a lot of that lying around from over the years and that just seems like a fun concept.
I guess we’ll see what the year brings but overall I feel healthier happier and more like my old self. I miss my old blog…and I seem to hear a certain collection of 64 x 64 pixel sprites calling my name ;
Moving in 1994
TES: Arena was made back in day when the WASD key combination for movement wasn’t used much (if at all) and most movement keys defaulted to the “arrow keys”. In addition, the ability to remap the keys in a game was fairly rare too.
SIDENOTE: WASD = W – forward, A – backward, S – slide Left, D – slide right. In variations without mouse-look, “slide” is replaced with “turn”. This is pretty much the defacto standard today due to being able to control movement with the left hand and mouse with the right.
It’s been there all along
For the Arena Depixelization process, I have done a lot of “in-game” checking of textures. The controls always felt unnatural to me even when the game was popular, but I put up with it. Later when DosBox became a popular way to run old Dos games, it included an ability to “remap” the keyboard keys. So in theory, you could move the keys functions around (e.g. map the arrow keys to the WASD setup. The problem was that this mucked up the assignment of letters and makes typing words and text (such as naming spells and save games). I tried the new setup a couple of times but didn’t really “get” DosBox’s key mapping tool very well.
Left doesn’t equal Left
So earlier in May, I had enough and decided to really try and make something work. In a short period of time, I discovered that the key remapping tool in DosBox was actually pretty versatile and the method it used allowed me to employ a trick that would fix the “typing words” problem and still have an optimized control scheme.
Basically, after remapping all the keys, I assigned one key “L Alt” as a master default key. This meant that anytime the Left Alt key was held down, ALL keys assignments reverted to normal behavior. For a game light on text input like Arena, this is a pretty elegant solution to the problem AND it works really well in the game and feels quite natural once you learn the key assignments.
I uploaded the files to the below two sites.
What’s this doing on an art blog
There was some graphic arts to this although hastily done and not quite as nice as I’d like it. I wanted to include a nice key template that laid all the keys out in an easy to understand and intuitive way. First, I scoured the internet for a decent picture of a keyboard (scoured = googled). After cleaning the image up a little, I added text box labels for every in-game key (including the few that I didn’t remap). Then I simply highlighted those keys with the paint bucket fill option and made all non-game keys a dull gray.
FUN FACT: There are several “new” keys that didn’t exist in the original game because the function only worked with a combination of keys before; such as there is now a long jump key as well as the regular jump (regular jump is really just hop in place), a world map key separate from the local map, a recast last spell key and slide left and right (which was only worked before by hold “.” and pressing a turn key)
All in all, it only took a few hours to get this done and now not only is it easier to test in game, but others can download this and use it for their game.
The straight and narrow
Some days I can blaze through images getting 5 or 6 done in a sitting, then other days just part of an image can take a couple days. When it comes to the Arena Depixelization Project (ADP), the easier ones are just patterns (especially ones with straight lines horizontal or vertical). The low pixel count doesn’t really muck up the design too much since there is no need for a “fine detailed” line in those cases.
It kind of looks like….
However, once lines start curving or the image becomes complex, the time required is increased, sometimes dramatically. It’s hard to get non-angular shapes to look good when you only have a 64×64 grid to work with. I find that it takes multiple revisions to get it looking just right. To make matters worse, the source material for ADP contains many pictures that are either so pixelated as to be barely discernible or they generally don’t look very good as you clean them up (such as dress thing for the “angel” in this picture).
Close enough for horseshoes and hand grenades
In that image, I had to make some artistic decisions on how “accurate” to the source material I would be. The image is generally too complex to leave unaltered for my “Depixelization” theme. At first, I didn’t even know how to tackle it. I completed all the background wall first and left the “Angel” and the “alcove” till last. The good thing about that is that it let me establish the colors for the image. Eventually, I had to do this one as I only have a few SET files left. I decided to break it up and focus on individual pieces of the angel. I really wished I had made a timelapse of this one to show how much back and forth I did on it.
Mr. Potato Head
I started with the more clearly defined shapes, to include the arms, head, and the key. Those came into place with minimal fuss. Then, I tackled the wings. It took me awhile as the initial version (closer to the source) just didn’t look very good. After a couple of iterations, I ultimately decide to make the wings bigger as if they were more full body sized. Next, I attempted to do the feet. However, they just did not look good, especially when I started working on the weird “billowed” dress/robe. I decided to put the feet off and do the clothing. I touched up the sleeves to improve the “hanging off the arms” appearance. I made my first rendition of the lower part of the robe very close the source version. However, it looked terrible because the source version is kind of ridiculous looking, as if someone tucked an oversized shirt into a skirt. I played with it a little before I decided to just alter the design. I revised it to look more like a regular robe. Unfortunately, the feet still looked awkward, so I removed them and lengthened and curved the robe as if they were hidden by it and it was floating.
Who’s down with ADP…yeah you know me
After a substantial hiatus for real life, I’m back. My schedule has a lot more free time in it now and I should be able to make substantial progress on the Arena mod in the next few weeks. As of now, I am just 2 or 3 SET files away from reaching ALPHA! Once that is complete, I will be setting up a MODdb page and probably trying to host it on the Nexus mod site.
The project will stay ALPHA until all door and ground files are done. I do hope to have all the font files and interface done too, but that is more of a nicety (most are already done though). Once ALPHA 2 is out that I will be going back and reevaluating each texture. I started this so long ago and have come quite a ways that some of them are not to my standard or vision anymore. As it is already, I occasionally retool one here and there but I plan to do a comprehensive review.
Taking the plunge
I finally gave in and purchased Photoshop (well subscribed really). I don’t anticipate being very proficient in it for awhile since I have been using GIMP for years and it’s so different. For the Arena project, this isn’t really a problem. It doesn’t require fancy functions. I am literally coloring individual pixels from a 256 palette. The biggest obstacle their is my creativity and not the tools.
Some recent work below (really like how the first one turned out)…
Back about 4 1/2 years ago, I had just gotten into computer graphic design. I spent the first 1/2 a year experimenting and learning how to use the editing software (GIMP). One of the games I messed with was Morrowind, my favorite game. It wasn’t really meant for any project. I decided to make a desktop wallpaper of the main menu.
At that time, I didn’t know much about GIMP or how to use it effectively. Additionally, I had just gotten my Wacom tablet and hadn’t become comfortable with it quite yet. To make it easy, I used the original Morrowind main menu texture as the base. Because of this, the end result was (and still is) useable in-game. I even went as far as retexturing the New/Load/Save buttons to match the theme.
I decided to use the box art as a supplementary inspiration when I began working on it. There were some key differences between the two; the major one being the border that framed the box art. I really liked the border and the “daedric” lettering on it. Unfortunately, my source copy of the box art wasn’t very good so I had to guesstimate when recreating them.
I did have a couple goals in mind with an overarching theme of applying a cleaner more art-lik
You never forget your first
Most of these effects evolved through experimenting with the software and various visual styles that I had in mind. However the whole picture was hand drawn/partially traced using my art tablet. It’s not without it’s flaws and a level of crudeness to the picture shows my inexperience at the time. Despite all that, it is one of my favorite personal pieces because it’s the first complete computer graphic design work of mine.